9 common words and phrases you could be using wrong without realising it

Pavle Bugarski/ShutterstockRecognising and correcting eggcorns is key to proper grammar.
  • Words are misused all the time in the daily flow of conversation.
  • “Eggcorns” are words or phrases that are incorrectly used in place of others that sound similar, like mistakenly saying “play it by ear” instead of “play it by year.”
  • Recognising and correcting eggcorns is key to proper grammar.
  • Here are nine commonly misused words and phrases that you may not have known were incorrect.

Spokenlanguagemakes it easy to confuse the correct spelling of a phrase. The practice even has its own name: eggcorns.

According toMerriam-Webster, eggcorns are words or expressions that sound alike, but are mistakenly used in a seemingly logical way.

The word “eggcorn” itself serves as an example – if you didn’t know how to spell “acorn,” you might write “eggcorn.” Though both are pronounced similarly, they have very different meanings.

As the executive editor at Avenue, aluxurylifestyle magazine inNew York, I come across misusedwordsand phrases all the time. Most can be remedied if you take a moment to think about your intended meaning and the definition of your word choice.

Here are 9 common words or phrases you didn’t know you were usingincorrectly, according to Merriam-Webster:

1. For all intents and purposes

For all intents and purposes” means “for all practical purposes” and is used to indicate that something has the same effect or gives the same result as something else. A good synonym is “essentially.”

However, the phrase is often misheard and mistakenly written as “for all intensive purposes.” Your purpose may be “intense,” but that is not what you intended to say.

2. Scapegoat

The word “scapegoat” is sometimes mistaken for “escape goat,” theColumbia Journalism Reviewnotes. A “scapegoat” is someone who takes the blame for others. An “escape goat” is a farm animal on the run.

3. Biding my time

Bidemeans “to wait for.” Thus, “biding my time” is correct, as it indicates that you’re waiting for time to pass until something happens.

“Biting my time” is often incorrectly used in place of “biding my time,” according toThe Sun.

4. Nip it in the bud

The phrase “nip it in the bud” means to stop an idea or action before it has time to mature.

“Butt” is commonly interchanged with “bud.” However, “bud” is the correct word, because the expression has its roots in gardening.

If you remove a bud from a plant, you’ll prevent the plant from growing and flowering.

5. Play it by ear

To “play it by ear” is to do something without special preparation, but it is mistakenly misheard and used as “play it by year.”

The expression “play it by ear” comes from music – if you were to play a song by ear, you’d perform it without having to read the music.

6. Pass muster

If you’re at an end-of-summer barbecue, you can “pass mustard” to someone across the table. If you’ve determined that something is satisfactory or to your liking, it “passes muster.”

The phrase derives its meaning from the military – amusteris a formal military inspection or a critical examination.

7. Moot point

There’s anepisodeof “Friends” where Joey references a “moo point” instead of the correct “moot point.” In his comical way, he gets the definition mostly correct: “It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter.”

A “moot” point is something that can be open to debate, but the solution has no importance.. In addition to Joey’s “moo point,” “moot point” has also been confused for “mute point,” according to Dictionary.com.

8. Tongue-in-cheek

Often mistakenly written as “tongue and cheek,” “tongue-in-cheek” is an adjective used to convey insincerity, irony, or whimsical exaggeration.

9. Coleslaw

Because of its texture and temperature, “coleslaw,” the salad made of raw cabbage, is easily confused with the incorrect “cold slaw.”

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